They say never to judge a book by its cover, and that adage certainly held true for the Shattuck-St. Mary’s U16 girls soccer team this past weekend at the Crossroads of America Showcase. After winning their Friday contest in their only MRL game of the weekend, the Sabres lost two close one-goal games to close out Saturday and Sunday. Despite the results, the U16s displayed some excellent attacking sequences, and overall played well in front of a wide array of college coaches.
Friday afternoon, the Sabres took on FC Pride Elite in their fifth Midwest Regional League game of the spring season. Coming into the game with a 2-1-1 record in spring MRL play, Shattuck was looking for all three points to keep within striking distance of the division leader. Despite a rocky start to the game that saw a lot of errant passes and nervous defensive moments, it was freshman Nina LeFlore who struck first for the Sabres in the 33rd minute. Her corner kick was struck perfectly into the far upper corner of the goal for her first tally since returning to action from a concussion a few weeks back. The second half saw better, more aggressive play from the Sabres that resulted in few chances for FC Pride, and the solid back line defending of Carissa Seying, Patricia Wentworth, Hunter Zamzow, Alex Skinner and Brooke Scheuble made life easier on goalkeeper Dana Grieme. Just as the game looked to end 1-0, a ball played from the left flank in to Alyssa Hendricks’ feet was turned on and laid off for Louisiana Tech commit Gabi Clark, who needed only one touch to drive her shot into the upper 90 of the goal for an emphatic 2-0 finish. Grieme played all 80 minutes in goal, recording the shutout.
On Day 2, Shattuck took on Ohio Galaxies Elite….the club’s top U16 team. Playing on wet, slick grass for the first time since the fall, the Sabres conceded the game’s first goal inside of 10 minutes. However, they responded nicely with two goals in a five-minute span to get control of the game. Hendricks scored first, redirecting a Wentworth free kick from the right side of goal that she arrived to at the same time as the Ohio goalkeeper. Despite some contact, Hendricks was able to stay on her feet and poke the ball into the exposed goal for an equalizing score. Five minutes later, it was sophomore Halie Reznik that gave the Sabres a lead after getting past her defender and shooting low beyond the keeper’s outstretched arms. The second half got off to a blazing start for both teams. Ohio Galaxies scored two goals in a short span to retake the lead at 3-2. The gut shot could have done the youngest Sabres team in, but they responded in short order to level the score. Straight from the kickoff, a ball from the left was played into Hendricks’ feet about 25 yards out from goal. She turned her defender sharply and laid the ball off to an onrushing LeFlore, who smashed her shot off the underside of the crossbar and into the net for an emphatic 3-3 score line. While Galaxies would go on to score a decisive fourth goal in the game’s final 10 minutes to emerge with a narrow 4-3 win over the Sabres, the attacking presence and the fight to come back from two 1-goal deficits showed just how far the 16s have come this season, against a quality opponent.
Sunday’s game saw Shattuck squaring off against Lexington FC Red, a late addition to the Crossroads event. Battling fatigue, an early-morning kickoff, and an even wetter, messier pitch than Saturday, the Sabres slogged their way through a messy first half that saw three goal scored. Easily the best of those goals went Shattuck’s way, as Reznik timed her sharp diagonal run perfectly and slotted home Hendricks’ brilliant cut-pass for a 1-0 lead. However, a few mishaps defensively gave Lexington the 2-1 halftime lead. In the second half, with Shattuck now trailing 3-1, the 16s scored another highlight-reel goal. It was again Hendricks that put the finishing touches on the play, and it was again Wentworth who delivered the service. Similar to the play that netted their first goal on Saturday, Hendricks met the Wentworth free kick at just the right angle to deftly touch the ball on it’s way through traffic low and beneath the Lexington keeper to bring the score to 3-2. The goal injected life back into the Shattuck attack, and they were unlucky not to equalize when Reznik’s hard drive smashed against inside corner of the post late in the second half. However, that was the closest the Sabres would get the rest of the way, losing 3-2 in a passionate, gutty performance.
Friday’s MRL victory leaves the 16s in first place in their division with two games left to play. One of those games will be this coming Thursday, as they welcome Maplebrook to the Dane Family Sports Complex for a 7:30pm kickoff. The following weekend, the Sabres will begin State Cup group play in Mankato, MN.